Füle pours cold water on Ukraine’s EU hopes

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Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, has poured cold water over Ukraine’s ambition to hold a summit with the Union and sign an Association Agreement.

Füle said the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, including the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area agreement (DCFTA), could be signed no earlier than November 2013. This would take place at the Vilnius Summit of the Eastern Partnership, under Lithuanian Presidency, he said at the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum held in Stockholm on Thursday (29 November).

But Füle also said that to make it happen, Brussels wanted to see “determined actions of the Ukrainian government and the new Parliament to address our well-known and oft-repeated concerns.”

Ukrainian diplomats have been calling for unfreezing the EU-Ukraine relations, which have been paralysed since the parliamentary elections held on 28 October.

The last  EU-Ukraine summit, in December 2011, was marred by tensions over the imprisonment of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. This year will end without an EU-Ukraine summit, while the EU held a summit with Russia despite Russia’s election calendar.

EU-Ukraine relations were on the agenda of a meeting of EU foreign ministers held just ahead of the 22-23 November EU budget summit, but the ministers took no decisions. The issue is likely to come up again at the next ministerial on 10 December, to be held ahead of the 13 December EU summit.

Füle’s words seem to indicate that Brussels plans no bilateral summit with Kyiv until the gathering in Vilnius of the EU representatives with their counterparts from Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Georgia and Azerbaijan.

As the forum where he spoke was devoted to civil society, Füle said the new European Endowment for Democracy, which the EU announced last year, had now been established and would soon be able to give grants to non-state actors in countries neighbouring the Union.

Earlier this month, the programme received a modest fund of €6 million. The money only covers administrative costs, while activities are expected to be funded by member states or other donors, such as foundations.

EURACTIV has learned that for now, the programme is struggling to secure funding for its activities. 

The December 2011 EU-Ukraine Summit failed to initial the country's Association Agreement with the Union, largely due to the imprisonment of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko that Brussels sees as politically motivated.

The five-year negotiations over the Association Agreement were concluded, but EU leaders made it clear that the deal would not be signed until improvements are made to the "quality of democracy and rule of law" in Ukraine.

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy also made it clear that the country's association agreement, which includes a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, would not be signed until the parliamentary elections in Ukraine due in October 2012.

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